Mary was the first of six children born to John and Pauline (Kmets) Bobak in Cleveland, Ohio. Though she reveled in being the only girl, in 1953 she described her baby sister as “God’s gift to us on Little Christmas” who “completely wound all of us around her little finger.” Mary dearly loved her family. She was with them in times of joy and in times of pain and sorrow, In their midst, she was an icon of love, compassion, and deep trust in God.
When Mary’s father took her to St. Boniface convent to register for first grade, they waited in the parlor for her teacher. In her autobiography, Mary recalled meeting Sister Mary Padua, who would be her first and second grade teacher. “I liked her instantly, and on the spot I decided that I would be a sister. This thought stayed with me always…” After 8th grade, Mary wanted to become an aspirant at Notre Dame Academy, but her mother preferred that Mary wait until after graduation from St. Boniface High School. Planning for an eventual “yes,” Mary signed up for classes that NDA required. She prayed and asked the sisters to pray. After two years, Mrs. Bobak gave her consent: Mary transferred to Notre Dame and became a postulant on February 2, 1957. As a novice she received the name Sister Mary John Paul, honoring her parents as well as two of her brothers.
Sister John Paul ministered as a junior high teacher for 16 years at schools in Chardon, Cleveland, Eastlake, Highland Heights, and University Heights, all in Ohio; and in Arlington and McLean, both in Virginia. She earned a bachelor of science degree from St. John College, Cleveland; a master’s in elementary education from John Carroll University, and certification in elementary administration from Cleveland State University. She served as principal at St. Mary, Avon; St. Peter, North Ridgeville; and St. Francis, Cleveland.
She was genuinely herself, and thus had the capacity to befriend a wide range of individuals in a variety of ministries. She was a member of the community leadership team as a regional superior, and then as local superior of the Chardon provincial center and the Notre Dame College community. She accepted new ventures as coordinator of the Health Care Center pastoral care team, and as co-director for the SND Associates; in these encounters, hundreds of people were blessed by her smile, her wisdom, and her spirit.
Her love was universal as well as personal. She was honest, hard-working, and fun. A voracious reader, she was always learning; she attended ethnic festivals, and viewed films from all over the world at the Cedar-Lee theater. She cared for creation, and upheld peace and justice issues. Sister John Paul centered her life on the Eucharist, where all would be nourished, and all could find welcome. “I am waiting for Bread from Heaven,” she said last week. May she know fullness of life and unending joy in God’s presence.
Sister Mary John Paul requested a green burial; the Memorial Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, September 2, at 10:30 a.m. Mass will be live-streamed. Go to www.sndusa.org. Click on the Chardon Regional Center.
To make a gift in memory of Sr. John Paul Bobak, please click here.